Generation Y cannot possibly understand the significance of ANZAC Day – this is a statement I have heard a number of times in recent years. It is normally followed by; the day has become too commercialised and it is just another excuse for people to get drunk and rowdy like on Australia Day.
As a Gen Y-er, I must say that for some of us this is true. However, for me and my family, it is something very different entirely.
I never met my grandad, Victor Harold Law. He fought in North Africa in World War II in the 2/6th Australian Field Regiment and was one of the men that returned home. He met and married Ruth Bell Sackett who gave birth to their two sons, Stuart and my dad, John. Vic died when my dad was 19 and Stuart was only 16.
Growing up I never knew Vic’s birthday or the date that he died, I just knew that ANZAC Day was the day we got up early, sat on picnic blankets outside McDonalds on George Street, Sydney and waved at the little old men and women that marched. My sisters and I would smile and wave our Australian flags at them while trying to get in front of the ABC camera crews as the little old ladies threw Minties at us. It was, and remains to be, the most emotional day of the year for my dad. It has always been the day that he honours his father, what he did for his family and indeed his country.
When I met my husband, I was lucky enough to spend two wonderful years getting to know his Grandpa, Thomas Wood Young, before he died. Tom was without a doubt one of the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
A fighter pilot in the 232 Hurricane Squadron during World War II, Tom spent three and a half years as a Prisoner of War on the Burma Siam Railway. He used to tell me about his time there, including the day he had a bayonet raised to his temple and was almost executed. Surprisingly, he would talk about his time in the POW camp with a smirk on his face, Jules, did I ever tell you about the time I played cricket for Australia? We thrashed the English at the Hintok Prisoner of War camp. He would say with a chuckle. His spirit and his courage live on in every member of his family. What he did for them and their family has not been forgotten, and won’t be for many generations to come.
I understand not everyone has met men, or even heard of men like these in their lives, men who have put their country before themselves. Today is a different time and whether you believe in what our military are doing or not overseas, I hope you can believe in their spirit and above all their courage. ANZAC Day to me isn’t just about Gallipolli, it is about the sacrifice that individual men and women in this country have made, and continue to make, so the rest of us can live our lives in safety.
So when people say that ANZAC Day has lost its significance or is too commercialised, that it doesn’t mean anything to today’s younger generation, I say you are wrong. There are people that think of the day as just another public holiday, but for me and many of the people I know it is about so much more. It is the epitome of freedom, courage, mateship and everything that our wonderful country offers us. It is about remembering Vic and Tom; what they did for me, for you and for this country.
I will continue to celebrate ANZAC Day with pride in my heart, and no matter how you spend your day, I hope you will do the same. Wear rosemary on your shirt, go to a dawn service, play two-up at the pub, hold a BBQ, do whatever it is that makes you happy, because after all, that is what ANZAC Day should be about, freedom and pride in our country.
Above all else, and I this is my most important point, don’t forget ANZAC Day. If people want to talk about the role it plays in our society, and where it is going, at least it is being talked about! The only way I know how to play a part in that is by sharing these thoughts with you. I will continue to live by the words of Rudyard Kipling and I hope you can too.
Lest we forget.
Julie Wright (nee Law) is a public relations consultant born and bred in Sydney. She recently made the move to London to live and work with her hubby. She tweets here and writes a blog about living in London here.
What does Anzac Day mean to you?